As It Was ... My Abduction

By Nikolai Alekseev
Translations by Pico at the Daily Kos and Mark Windsor

MOSCOW, September 18, 2010  –  On September 15 nothing could have prepared me for what happened over the next three days.  Before flying out, I visited the offices of the provider that hosts our servers for GayRussia.Ru to pay our bills for September and October.  Since I was already there on Kropotkinskaya Street, I met up with Lesha [Alexei] Davydov and his friend Misha in order to discuss the preparations for our Tuesday picket against Moscow mayor Luzhkov.  I myself had to fly to Switzerland and was planning to return on Monday evening.

From Kropotkinskaya Street we quickly reached the Paveletsky train station, where the guys put me on the aeroexpress to Domodedovo Airport, where I arrived around 4:45pm.  From there everything went smoothly.  After getting my boarding pass to Geneva and an invitation to the business-class waiting area for Swiss Air Lines, I dropped off my luggage at the business-class counter, after which I went up to the second floor of the terminal.

I immediately want to counter any rumours that I fly VIP: this is not the case.  And I was supposed to be flying economy-class to Geneva that day.  Because I fly so much, my frequent flier miles afford me certain privileges.

After arriving on the second floor of the terminal I passed through customs without a problem, and they didn’t even ask me what and how much I was bringing and didn’t bother looking at my documents.  I proceeded to passport control.  And here, for the first time, I felt uneasy.  For several minutes the border control worker was checking something in the computer, even though, at nearby counters, several people had passed through.  Even so, after a few minor hitches she gave my passport the exit stamp to leave the Russian Federation, and I passed through.  Now, at this moment I was in the international zone of the airport and outside the scope of the country.  Passing through an ornate corridor, I found myself at the aviation security inspection, which took place rather quickly and routinely, and to my surprise they didn’t even ask me to remove my laptop and other electronics from my bag, which is usually necessary for these trips abroad.

Immediately after passing through the inspection, for which at this point I had a stamp on my boarding pass to Geneva, I was approached by someone who was later explained to me to be the on-duty chief of aviation safety, Alexander Khaustov, who told me that it would be necessary to inspect my baggage and shoes, that this had already been done, however it was unsatisfactory.  He called on his radio for security guards and for a Rostislav Petrov, who turned out to be the representative for Swiss Air Lines.

At this moment my hair began to stand on end for the first time.  This very representative of the airline didn't even look at me and didn’t bother to ask the security guards or the safety inspectors what the problem might be.  He immediately stated in front of the security that my checked-in luggage had ALREADY BEEN UNLOADED from the airplane, and. that orders had been given to the airline even before their encounter with me.  After this, the entire group led me to some room that appeared to be the border defence service.  Along the way Mr. Petrov said that my information would be sent along to Swiss law enforcement agencies, that in many such cases they would annul my EU (Schengen) visa.  But I had no idea what kind of information he might be sending along.

In this room, my documents were copied, my bags were searched, including my laptop, they found about five copies of [Boris] Nemtsov's Putin: The Bottom Line, which they made fun of for a long time.  They spoke to me drily, in no way explaining the reasons for what was happening.  They merely smirked at my objections connected to the fact that I was located in the international zone of the airport, where international law was in effect.  This continued for another two and a half hours, after which incomprehensible, hulking men in civilian clothes, with faces not disfigured by intellect, entered the room.  And the security said to them, “You can take him away.”  And to my question “Where will you be taking me?”, the answer that I got was: “You’ll see!”

Up to this moment, I was still able to use my telephone and report to Interfax and Ekho Moskvy about what happened, and they promptly sent the information out into the ether, for which I thank them enormously.

Then they led me out of the airport building, only not through the main hall but through some kind of black entrance/exit.  They placed no further marks in my passport, so that, according to the press, I was currently not in Russia but abroad.  This despite the rule that if for whatever reason a passenger doesn’t fly, or leaves the international zone, they either have to give him a new entry stamp into the country or they have to place over the already given exit stamp an indication of annulment.  This happened to me once three years ago, when I didn't take a Transaero flight and returned to the international zone at the very same Domodedovo airport.

At first I thought they were leading me to a police car to take me to some Moscow OVD [internal affairs], but I was wrong.  I was prepared to shout out that I was being kidnapped, but they took me to where there were no people at all.  Four men with handbags stuck me in some kind of foreign car and drove me to where, it quickly became clear, was not Moscow.  After two hours they brought me to some building, I understood that it was the police, brought me into a room and began to search me.  They required me to turn off my telephone, but they were with me for about two more hours.  I had no idea where I was.  And then when I was left alone for a period of time. I reached for my iPad and with two taps learned my location.  

If it was not for this device I still wouldn’t know where they took me on the first day.  Thanks, Apple!  My location showed up as the city of Kashira.  I began to draw my fingers frantically over the map in order to find out the exact address, but there was no 3G there and EDGE loads up maps very slowly.  In the end, afraid they would catch me, I disconnected the iPad completely; then they tried to get into it, but they couldn't, because it was password protected.

They literally kept me waiting in this Kashira police station for twenty-four hours.  I thus understood that the Moscow methods of spec-ops were perfected.  They themselves don't work out of these departments, but simply use these accommodations like torture chambers.  It was a very similar situation after my arrest at the Slavic gay pride at Sparrow Hills in Moscow in May of 2009.  Then OMON [spec forces] took me to the Ramenki OVD, where people in civilian clothes psychologically tortured me and mocked me with homophobic insults until the evening.  Then they evaporated as quickly as they had appeared.  In Kashira, the methods were similar.  In truth, this room was tuned to a much less positive key.  Ragged walls and minimal furniture, a table, chairs, not even a computer.

For a long time I nevertheless didn't understand why that had brought me here and under what pretences.  After a while they began to hint directly that I’d have to abandon my work on the Moscow gay pride ban in the European Court.  The argument went something like, “You’re always complaining there!  What do you have to gain from making this a political situation,” they asked?  I answered: “What on earth for?”  I was dumbfounded when they presented me with an already-printed paper to the effect that I was abandoning further pursuit of the matter in connection with international agreements.  I didn't sign anything, despite persistent ‘advice’ not to enter into conflict with the authorities.  But at this moment I understood that I nevertheless had to initiate these major cases not only on behalf of one person, but at least several.

After this they began to talk about the picket against Luzkhov.  “Aren't you tired of this yet?  Don’t you see how complicated it is?”  All this was accompanied by words like “faggot”, "pederast”, “homosexual”, etc.  I immediately replied that my name didn’t appear on the application for the Tuesday picket, and that I could recall nothing else about it.  They insisted that I was nonetheless the formal organiser.

They gave me water in an already-filled glass to drink; and I began to have doubts relative to the composition of the water.  For the period of two days I lost concentration, and felt some kind of emotional unresponsiveness.  Only several hours after my return to Moscow today did I understand that there was a purpose to all this.

The first days were the hardest, although when they transported me Thursday night somewhere else, I had a brief thought that this would all be over soon, forever.  It was a dark, ‘narrow road’ that brought me to that conclusion.  Moreover I clearly could not fall asleep sitting in the chair with my head on the table.  Several times I asked them to summon me quickly, to draw up an official statement of my arrest, to allow me to contact my lawyer.  But no one responded to any of these requests.

They brought me to some new OVD which later proved to be in Tula, where they pressed me even less.  Only now, analysing the information in the media, do I understand that, at this moment, these people sent from my Swiss telephone information to the effect that I was, allegedly, in Minsk, that I was seeking political asylum there, and that I received a decision about the case from the European Court.  Of course I couldn’t even begin to think about asking Belarus for asylum.  I have very warm feelings toward my country and its people, but I highly doubt that the authorities there would accommodate me.  To recall a complaint from Strasbourg, it would also represent the height of betrail towards those people who’ve been with me all these five years, but who now can’t influence the final decision in the case before the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights).

On Friday evening they put me in a car and drove me to the outskirts of the city, where they stopped and said “Get out”.  I made my way downtown, understanding that I couldn’t take a train because I’d need to show my passport.  As a result, I grabbed the first bus to Moscow, arriving by morning.

In connection with what happened, I intend to take Domodedovo airport and its aviation safety department, which violated international law and forcibly returned me to Russian jurisdiction, to court.  This was impossible even if I had decided to live in the airport, as sometimes happens in other countries.  Furthermore, my ticket was purchased in Switzerland, therefore the contract between Swiss Air Lines and the passenger is concluded on the basis of Swiss law.  In connection with this I will request trial in Switzerland.  I will also demand a complete investigation into the basis of crimes against me in the form of illegal deprivation of freedom and kidnapping.

I am extremely grateful to all those who helped me and followed this situation.  Thank you to my colleagues here in Moscow, especially to Lesha Davydov, Kolya Baev, Ana Komarova.  Thank you to Volker Beck in Germany for his help, thank you to the activists all over the world who sent messages of support to my address.  Thank you to Alexander Poluyan and Sergei Androsenko in Minsk and Andy Harley from London for covering this situation.   Thank you to Maria Arbatova for covering these events on her own Livejournal page.  Thank you as well to my enemies, who have livened up for the umpteenth time and accused me of “cheap PR”.  Thanks to them, this information was further debated and disseminated.

My immediate plans are to get GayRussia.Ru back up and running, and to help bring this question of the “Luzhkov is a faggot” picket to its logical conclusion.

■  Thanks to 'Pico' at Daily Kos in USA and Mark Windsor in England for the translations.


For Coverage in German, see Queer’s Website

Russian Gay Activist: “I Never Was in Minsk – I Never Sent Any SMS Messages.   “Abducted” Alekseev surfaces in Russia, not Belarus.  “I never was in Minsk … My phone was taken from me two days ago …”  These are the actual – and remarkable – words of Nikolai Alekseev, the gay Russian activist and chief organiser of Moscow Pride, who has surfaced somewhere in Russia.  (UK Gay News, September 17, 2010)

Questions Have to be Answered by Authorities in Russia and Belarus as Doubts Emerge About Well-Being of Russian Gay Activist.  Commentary.   Has Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev actually been released?  And is he really in Minsk?  These are questions being asked by Belarusian gay activists in Minsk this afternoon. (UK Gay News, September 17, 2010)

Direland - USA:
New Concerns for Safety of Nikolai Alekseev.   Commentary by Doug Ireland.   A dispatch published a few hours ago by Interfax Belarus, the Belarussian branch of the Russian-based news agency, raises real questions about whether leading Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev -- who was arrested Wednesday night, disappeared from view for two days while Russian authorities denied having him in custody, than resurfaced in Minsk in Belarus, where he'd been deported -- is in fact truly free of his movements and speech.

BBC News Russian Service - UK:
Устроитель гей-парадов в Москве просит убежища в Минске?   Коллеги и друзья организатора гей-парадов в Москве Николая Алексеева почти сутки не могут выйти с ним на связь. Тем временем с номера его мобильного телефона в агентство Интерфакс пришли sms о том, что он решил просить политического убежища в Белоруссии.  This article, Organizer of Gay Parades in Moscow Seeks Asylum in Minsk?, is is Russian only.  Google online translation is HERE.

MEP on Russia Gay Rights: Alekseev’s Arrest Is of “Deep Concern”.   An MEP has expressed “deep concern” following the arrest yesterday evening of Nikolai Alekseev, the high-profile Russian gay activist who was detained at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow as he was about to board a Swiss Air Lines flight to Geneva.  Sarah Ludford, the LibDem MEP who sits with the ALDE group in the European Parliament, hit out at the Russian authorities today.  (UK Gay News, September 16, 2010)

Alekseev: “They Want Me to Withdraw the Complaints to European Court over Moscow Gay Pride”.  Russian authorities have detained the organiser of Moscow Gay Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, and are requiring him to abandon a picket, demanding the resignation of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.  The authorities are also demanding that he withdraws lawsuits lodged with the European Court of Human Rights over the banning of Moscow Gay Prides over the past five years.  (UK Gay News, September 16, 2010)

Russian Gay Activist Arrested at Moscow Airport As He Was About to Board Swiss Air Lines Flight to Geneva.  Russia’s best known gay rights activist was arrested this evening at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.  And there are concerns as, so far, officials are not giving out any information about his whereabouts.  (UK Gay News, September 15, 2010)